Your Ear Canal
You should never stick your fingers—or anything else—in your ears. “Introducing anything into the ear canal can tear the thin skin that lines the ear canal,” says John K Niparko, MD, professor and chair of the department of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
If you feel a persistent itching sensation in your ears, see an otolaryngologist rather than trying something DIY. “An otolaryngologist can assess the problem—whether it be wax accumulation, eczema of the skin, or infection—like swimmer’s ear, for example. A tailored program of treatment, ear hygiene, and moisturizing of the skin should be put into play,” says Niparko.
You can use your hands to wash your face or apply skincare. But otherwise, keep your paws off. When you rest your hands on a germy surface and then bring them to your forehead, it increases your likelihood of getting sick—and breaking out, too. Your fingers contain oils that can plug your pores, says Men’s Health dermatology advisor Adnan Nasir, MD.
Wiping and washing aside, don’t pick your butt. Just don’t. “The anus does contain bacteria that could potentially be harmful,” says Jared W. Klein MD, PhD, medical director of the after care clinic at Harborview Medical Center. After you poop or touch your butt for any other reason, wash your hands thoroughly.
Unless you’re putting in contacts or washing away a particle that found its way into your peepers, keep them off limits. You can easily introduce germs into your eyes, says Men’s Health ophthalmology advisor Kimberly Cockerham, MD. Those bugs could cause anything from pinkeye to a scarier infection. Follow her simple rule: “Don’t touch and don’t rub.” And if you do experience itchiness, dryness, or contact lens discomfort, talk to your eye doc. He or she can address the underlying issue.
Recent research from the U.K. found that people put their fingers on or around their mouths an average of 23.6 times per hour when they were bored at work. And they still did it 6.3 times an hour when they were busy! That’s a problem: In a landmark study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, a third to a quarter of germs tested transferred from study subjects’ fingers to their mouths. Maybe you should think about stealing your kid’s pacifier.
The Inside of Your Nose
Quit digging for gold: In a 2006 study of ear, nose, and throat patients published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, nose pickers were 51% more likely to carry Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in their schnozzes than those who kept their hands off.
The Skin Under Your Nails
Your nail beds are basically a germ factory.( Photograph by Glowimages/Getty Images )
Lots of nasty bacteria, including staph, can live there. “Your nails should be short to reduce the chances of bacterial carriage, and such nails only need a gentle nail brush to remove debris and often,” says David De Berker, MRCP, consultant dermatologist at the British Dermatology Center.
“Picking tends to create trauma in its own right,” he says, “and then any bacteria or yeast can cause further problems—sometimes resulting in a pattern called onycholysis, where the nail lifts off the nail bed.”